By Martin Cleary
Ottawa’s Matteo Dal-Cin is one happy cyclist these days.
Not that he wasn’t before as he served the past five years as a domestique for the best riders on Rally Cycling, which is classified as a Pro Continental team and one level below the World Tour.
But this year, Dal-Cin is viewing cycling from a completely different perspective – new team, a lower racing tier, but far more satisfying results for himself and the team.
After not having his contract renewed by Rally last fall for not having better results for a rider whose sole purpose was to give the team’s best riders opportunities for good results, Dal-Cin checked out the European scene. But there were no team openings for 2022.
It didn’t help that Dal-Cin crashed in a rare sprint finish for him on the first day of the Tour of Denmark last August, broke the radius bone in his left elbow and didn’t return to racing until early October, when he had DNFs in two single-day races in France.
Near the end of 2021, however, he connected with friends at Toronto Hustle and found a home. The Hustle was making the big move up to the Continental tier, which is one level below Rally at the Pro Continental division, but a major step up from the amateur Elite Domestic circuit.
“It was definitely exciting news for (Toronto Hustle),” Dal-Cin, 31, said in a phone interview this week before heading to Baltimore for the 194-kilometre Maryland Cycling Classic on Sunday. “It’s a new challenge. There’s more work, more races and more moving pieces.”
For Dal-Cin, who is in his ninth year as a professional racer, this opportunity meant he could race as the leader of a team and chase the big results.
“I was definitely slotted to work for others (with Rally),” he added. “But now I’m in a position to have far more opportunities to be best in GC (general classification, race standings) and race my own race more often.”
So far, Dal-Cin’s new racing opportunity has been producing huge dividends.
“Personally, it’s close to, if not, my best season for results,” he said. “Definitely in terms of achieving my goals, like winning a race in Europe. I was given the freedom to do that here.”
He made his Toronto Hustle debut in mid-March at the two-stage South Aegean Tour, where he placed second in Stage 1 and won Stage 2 to finish first overall in the GC.
At the Tour of the Gila, Dal-Cin placed second overall in the GC, after posting second-, third-, fifth- and eighth-place results in four of the five stages. He missed winning the overall title by four seconds to Sean Gardner of CS Velo Racing.
“It was super challenging with wild mountains to tackle. It was a bit outside my terrain. It was fun and challenged me to see if I could hold it for five days on terrain not suited to a bigger rider,” said Dal-Cin, who stands at six feet, five inches beside his bike.
“The last 20 miles we all worked so hard and were all cramping up. At the finish line, we were all spent. It was really cool to be in a position like that, racing for the GC instead of playing a role in someone else’s GC chase.”
In the final week of June near Edmonton, Dal-Cin was second in the cold and rainy men’s time trial to Derek Gee of Osgoode, ON., at the Canadian road cycling championships. Dal-Cin, the 2017 national road race champion, also placed ninth in the road race.
For the months of July and August, Dal-Cin had a light, but interesting racing schedule as he approached his final three races. He will conclude his competitive calendar by representing Canada at a pair of Grand Prix races in Quebec City on Sept. 9 and in Montreal on Sept. 11.
Dal-Cin travelled to Chicago for the Intelligentsia Cup from July 22-30 and raced six of the 10 criterium races. He was in fine form, winning two races, placing second in another and picking up points for a sixth-place result. He finished 10th overall.
In August, he took a trip back to his grassroots by racing twice in the Ottawa Bicycle Club’s Open Time-Trial series. Well, he did more than participate in the regular Thursday night 15-kilometre sprint test on Aug. 18 and the featured 40-kilometre endurance challenge on Aug. 21, he broke course records in both.
Between 2006 and 2016, Dal-Cin raced in 54 OBC time trials. He returned on May 12 for his first 15-kilometre dash along the Aviation Parkway in six years and placed first in 17:24, averaging 51.72 kilometres/hour.
Dal-Cin was pleased with both those numbers and wanted to maintain that same average speed at the Canadian championships. But nasty weather near the Alberta capital prevented him from exceeding a 50-kilometre/hour average and he finished at 48.676.
He returned to the OBC time trial on Aug. 18 with the intention of going even faster than his race in May. By improving his pacing strategy and making a couple of technical changes to his bike, he broke the course record with a ride of 17:07 and had an average speed of 52.58 kilometres/hour. Mark Sherboneau was second in 18:11.
Three days later, he attacked the 40-kilometre Franktown Road course and lowered the course record to 47:57, winning by 4:21 over OBC time-trial legend Aaron Fillion in 52:18. Dal-Cin’s average speed was 50.05 kilometres/hour.
“These races definitely give you confidence in your form and show my training is going well,” Dal-Cin explained. “It’s nice my fitness is there. I feel the hard work I’ve put in is paying off.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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